Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Back from vacation(s)

Well, I’m back from my vacations - plural, because there was a real, physical vacation (to Cape Ann, MA) and a social media vacation as well, where I took a break from all social media for an entire month. I didn’t leave email for the whole month, just the blogging, Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. I left email for almost a solid ten days, only answering two “emergency” emails that were brought to my attention via cell phone messages. I survived. In fact, I thrived.

Why did I do this? I don’t believe any of the crap out there about the negative effects of social media, or any other new technology thing, on our brains, our attention spans, our ability to think deeply, or any of the other nonsense people are selling these days. It seems like I read some ridiculous article about this every other day now, and if anything it just convinces me that in spite of this wondrous web, reporters still don’t have enough real news to report about, or enough ways to find counter-arguments to these bogus claims. All in all, I get a lot out of some of my social media. I get more useful info and news from the people I follow on Twitter - in a timelier fashion - than I get from the New York Times now. But the problem is that “some” in the equation - not all of my social media gives me much of any use. More importantly, I could see that I was using my time on social media as a way to avoid doing things I really needed to do - like my own creative projects. I’m not saying that everyone does this, nor am I saying that it’s not possible to read all the news on Twitter and still write a screenplay or paint a picture. But if you’re anything like me, you have very limited time each day for personal projects, and every minute I was spending on social media was a minute I wasn’t spending on things that were frankly much more important to me. So, I took a break.

I did suffer some serious withdrawal for a couple of days. Sometimes I would find myself just staring at the computer screen doing nothing - I wasn’t checking Twitter, but what was I doing? To some extent, this is just natural. When I managed a large staff of people, I never cracked down on use of social media or the web generally during office hours. I believe that people are going to waste a certain amount of time daily, and it will either be on Facebook, on the street corner with a cigarette or just staring at your screen, so I don’t see this as a problem. Our minds just need a break. Luckily, I got over this pretty soon, and would use these bits of down time for my own projects. If I couldn’t focus on these various projects and really needed to procrastinate, I would read. The old fashioned way - a book, magazine or print newspapers. I read a lot, and I got a lot done. Hopefully, you’ll be seeing some of the fruits of this project soon - in new blog posts, articles and some other things before too long.

I also confirmed what I had suspected all along - that I was getting value from only some of my social media, and that those will be the only ones I return to now. What won out? Just Twitter, really. While this can be a time sink, I do get very valuable information and news in a timely fashion from it, and I think it’s worth the time spent. I’ll likely check in less often - at least for a little while - but it has real value. Facebook, FourSquare, Linked-In and all the others....not so much. Unfortunately, I get a lot of work-related inquiries on Facebook. If I could I would leave it, because beyond that I find it worthless and annoying. I’ll continue to cross-post my tweets and stuff there, and answer any friend requests and messages, but I won’t really be there anymore. I’m not deleting my profile from it, but I am not going back to FourSquare. I’ve only found it useful once - when I was visiting a city, hadn’t bothered to look online for restaurant reviews and was able to read mini-reviews on Four-Square and quickly find the best item on a menu near my location. I may use it for that again, but only if I am visiting unprepared again. I believe there’s a strong future for location based apps, and for checking in not just to locations but also to movies, music, etc but for now, I get nothing out of it. I’ll still read some blogs, but I’ll be thinning out my RSS reader a fair bit. I’d love to get rid of LinkedIn, as it is utterly useless to me, but again some people (they tend to be older and/or less tech savvy) still contact me on it, so I’m stuck there a bit longer.

Will I do this again? Yes. I don’t think anyone needs an entire month off from social media, but let’s face it - August is a slow news month and as good a time as any to redirect one’s energies to their own pet projects. I can’t afford to jitney off to the Hamptons for the month, but I can easily afford missing a few tweets for awhile.

Photo: Gloucester Fisherman

1 comment:

mikki mouth said...

interesting observation. it brings me to something i was reading this morning about keeping your heart soft in order to stay in reality.if you are not involved in giving thoughts or emotions to others, taking will rule your life. i instantly thought of the willingness (of the types who use social media) to connect and share openly which surely will have an effect on the way the world will proceed. i feel social media is more productive for the positive types and can only help their voice be heard in a world where pure hearts seem useless. so...i can't think of a better way to waste time because in my life there is another larger internet taking care of all the little problems...like hitting the jackpot with one of our little creations.